6 Popular Songs People Misinterpret
Art only ever really means what you want it to mean, and many music acts even implore their listeners to create their own meaning out of their music.
However, some songs reach a general consensus amongst fans and media so much that we think we all know what a song means. In many cases, we’re wrong.
Here are six songs that have been misconstrued. For future reference: When in doubt, it’s about drugs.
“In Bloom” by Nirvana
A man misunderstood many times himself, many of Nirvana’s songs are. Notably, some have no meaning at all. Kurt Cobain, who detested misogynistic and bombastic rock culture, references the fans he wishes to mock.
“He’s the one who likes all the pretty songs and he likes to sing along / and he likes to shoot his gun / but he knows not what it means.”
Aware that many people would not get the point of his songs and simply sing along with them blindly, he purposely wrote a sing-a-long chorus so people he found distasteful would insult themselves. Kurt Cobain explained in “Nevermind: It’s an Interview” that he had a disdain for “rednecks, macho men and abusive people.” and used the lyrics to taunt them into singing about themselves, who he viewed did not understand his message.
“(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” by Beastie Boys
Used as a party anthem since it’s release, the Beastie Boys have inspired many to fight for their right to get trashed.
It’s really about the opposite.
The song was intended to be an ironic parody of self-important party culture wrote the song as a joke. In an NPR interview, they claim they realized the message was misconstrued when they looked out into the crowd and saw a bunch of “fray boys” moshing.
Mike D even said, “The only thing that upsets me is that we might have reinforced certain values of some people in our audience when our own values were actually totally different. There were tons of guys singing along to “Fight for Your Right” who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them.”
Lyrics that should have given the joke away include:
“Your pop caught you smoking man he said no way / That hypocrite smokes two packs a day / Man, living at home is such a drag / Now your mom threw away your best porno mag…busted.”
“Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind
What could be considered a sunshine pop record with some non-sensible lyrics, is actually about sex-crazed crystal meth users.
Notable lyrics include:
“I’m packed and I’m holding / I’m smiling, she’s living, she’s golden.”
“Doing crystal myth / Will lift you up until you break / It won’t stop / I won’t come down, I keep stock / With a tick-tock rhythm and a bump for the drop/ And then I bumped up/ I took the hit I was given/ Then I bumped again/ And then I bumped again.”
“I want something else / To get me through this life.”
“A Team” by Ed Sheeran
Given Ed Sheeran’s track record of sickly love ballads, it’s not a stretch to listen to the lyrics of “A Team” and imagine a woman he’s singing sweet words to of unrequited love.
As the video illuminates, it’s tale of a crack addicted prostitute.
From an early gig when he was young at a homeless shelter, Sheeran was taken aback by many of the stories he heard and wrote an upbeat song of a troubled woman battling drugs.
“A Team” is a reference to the fact that drugs like crack cocaine are classified as a “class A” drug.
Notable lyrics include:
“White lips, pale face / Breathing in snowflakes / Burnt lungs, sour taste.”
“And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland / Or sells love to another man.”
“Give It Away” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Graphic in delivery and in imagery, “Give It Away” can easily be written off as a tale of sex and drugs in Southern California, a common theme in any Chili Peppers song.
Instead, it is about giving away a part of yourself to your loved ones.
As lead singer Anthony Kiedis explains in his memoir, “Scar Tissue,” a girlfriend once gave him her jacket because she thought gifting things away to people she loved enhanced her life.
In “Scar Tissue,” Kiedis laments, “It was such an epiphany that someone would want to give me her favorite thing. That stuck with me forever. Every time I’d be thinking ‘I have to keep,’ I’d remember ‘No, you gotta give away instead.’ Every time you empty your vessel of that energy, fresh new energy comes flooding in.”
“London Calling” by The Clash
The majority of Clash tunes have a political message, much like a good majority of punk music. Whether it be anger at the British government or any other corrupt institution Strummer and company took issue with, the late 70’s and 80’s collective had a point about something. However, this classic and titular song, while alluding to political institutions, is less critical of British politics and more about a tale of impending apocalyptic doom.
Within the song, there is the warning of an ice age, starvation, and war.
Joe Strummer explained in 1988 to Melody Maker: “I read about ten news reports in one day calling down all variety of plagues on us.”
One of those threats included the band’s fear of the rivers flooding the city of London. That same fear prompted Strummer to begin the first drafts of the song, until the scope was broadened to various dooms and glooms.
Notable lyrics include:
“London calling to the underworld / Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls.”
“The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in / Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin / Engines stop running, but I have no fear / ‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river.”
What are other songs that are misinterpreted? Tell us in the comments below. To listen to even more great music, download the Trebel app here.
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